Four questions for five writers, previewing the remainder of the Thunder-Grizzlies Western Conference semifinals:
1. Fact or fiction: For the Thunder to win, KD must score 30+ points.
Darnell Mayberry (beat writer) - Fact. Without the scoring abilities of Russell Westbrook, the offense is all on Durant’s shoulders. Unless of course you’re banking on Kevin Martin to be consistent or Derek Fisher to continue erupting for 19 points. Once upon a time this Thunder team was best when everybody was involved offensively and a threat to score. Those days appear to be long gone. Not sure if it’s the pressure of the playoffs or simply the loss of Westbrook as a non-stop threat. But the role players who likely yearned for more a month ago have looked unable to consistently step up their games now that it matters most. That leaves Durant to do it all.
John Rohde (beat writer) - Fact. And if Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin don’t show up more consistently, KD might have to score 40-plus. If OKC’s top six players could score two baskets above their average, Russell Westbrook’s 23 points no longer would be missing and KD could play more freely.
Berry Tramel (columnist) - Fact. Durant has to score big for the Thunder to win. Especially against Memphis, which isn’t likely to allow nominal scorers to have much production. It’s going to take elite performance to score on the Grizzlies, and that’s mostly Durant. Thirty is mandatory for OKC.
Jenni Carlson (columnist) - Fact. I’d love to be able to say otherwise, but the evidence is that Durant has to score big for this team to win. No other player is a for-sure on the offensive end. Not Kevin Martin. Not Serge Ibaka. Not Reggie Jackson. Not Derek Fisher, though he’s as close as anyone. Without a consistent second scoring option, Durant has to score and score a lot for the Thunder to win.
Anthony Slater (sports blogger) – Fiction. I could see them somehow squeaking one out with only 29 from KD. But it’d probably have to come with about 17 assists. Because let’s face it, he’s their only consistent playmaker. In a narrow Game 1 win and six-point Game 2 defeat, Durant was responsible for 107 of OKC’s 186 points. He either scored or assisted on 57.5 percent of their offense, a ridiculous clip and telling number. Everything runs through KD and if he’s not Superman, the Thunder won’t win.
2. What is the biggest adjustment OKC must make going forward? Memphis?
Mayberry - Well, after Game 2, rebound. The Thunder cannot allow 16 offensive rebounds to this Grizzlies team. It’ll be a short series if that continues. The adjustment is rebounding by committee. The guards have got to help out the big men. Because it wasn’t the Grizzlies’ low post players that destroyed the Thunder on the glass, it was the wing players. Of the Grizzlies 16 offensive rebounds, 10 were gobbled up by wing players. Meanwhile, in my mind, Memphis has controlled this series for the majority of its eight quarters. The Grizzlies will be just fine if they keep doing what they’re doing but just do it better.
Rohde - To quote coach Scott Brooks in Game 2, “Grab the (darn) rebound.” If you make Brooks curse, you’re failing miserably. I’ve never seen a team so inconsistent in rebounding. OKC was great in Game 1 and horrendous in Game 2. Show up to rebound every game and you’d be amazed how other things fall into place.
Tramel - Adjustments are always ongoing. Immediately, the Thunder must counter Mike Conley. That means Thabo Sefolosha has to dog Conley and try to keep the Memphis point guard out of the lane. The biggest Thunder problem is rebounding — it has to keep the Grizzlies off the boards. But that’s not an adjustment. That’s just playing better. Memphis adjustments? Playing Tony Allen more on Durant. Allen proved down the stretch of Game 2 that he can be a thorn in KD’s side, despite Lionel Hollins saying Allen really isn’t big enough.
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